PITTSFORD, N.Y. – A playoff was only fitting. After 38 years in Rochester, no one wanted to say goodbye. Inbee Park broke the heart of Brittany Lincicome with a string of clutch putts down the stretch to etch her name on the last bit of silver left on the LPGA Championship trophy.
“I think I’ve been in too many playoffs lately,” said Park, who lost in a playoff last week in Michigan. It’s the second consecutive year Park has won the Wegmans LPGA Championship in a playoff. Only two other players have successfully defended their titles in Rochester: Patty Sheehan and Nancy Lopez.
Park, 26, enjoyed a beer bath from friends Meena Lee and Jenny Shin and then the traditional bagpipe processional up the 18th fairway. She then waited patiently for tournament officials to take several trips down memory lane. It takes a long time to thank folks for 40 years of service. By the time Park took the mic, she’d put on a jacket to combat the evening chill.
Seconds after Park finished her post-round interview, fireworks boomed. This tournament would go out with a bang, even if the player nicknamed BAM BAM came up painfully short.
“Lots of tears,” said Lincicome, who shared an emotional embrace with good friend Brittany Lang immediately after the playoff along with several others.
“Obviously I’m disappointed with myself for not winning, but I’m planning on going to sign all the autographs I can because they’ve embraced us.”
For Lincicome, it came down to a bad case of nerves down the stretch. She admitted to “shaking like a leaf” over her chip shot on the first playoff hole. Park said she felt calm all day until she headed to back to the 18th tee for a second time.
But then Park knows how to survive in the pressure cooker better than most. She calmly got up-and-down from the behind the green on the first playoff hole while Lincicome melted away.
“I think having the experience definitely helped,” said Park, who in her mind flashed back to last year’s playoff victory. “I think I felt a lot more comfortable after thinking that I’ve been into many playoffs, so it’ll be just another one.”
Park’s 11th victory on the LPGA moves her to 10th on the LPGA career money List and third for the 2014 season. She’s won twice this year and the major crown moves her back into contention for all the year-end accolades.
Park has won four of the last nine majors.
It takes 1,200 volunteers to make this well-oiled tournament machine work. Linda Hampton, Rochester’s tournament director for the last 35 years, patted her heart as tournament chairman Jerry Stahl praised her for being the heart and soul of this event.
Hampton, surrounded by family on the 18th, rode around Monroe Golf Club during the final round in a cart with two of her grandsons, soaking up the atmosphere one last time.
The smell of the concessions, the roar of the crowds, the large checks for charity – all will be sorely missed around these parts.
The sun shone brightly on this tournament Sunday after a week of gloomy skies and unwanted rain. Generations of LPGA stars have left big impressions on this community, and fans were more than reluctant to let go.
“The hardest day of this whole thing is Monday,” said Hampton, “when they’re not here anymore but the trash is.”
That’s the thing about Rochester. Someone always comes along to pick things up.